With Wrestlemania now just around the corner, WWE have been steadily building up their main feuds for the big event with varying degrees of success. I’ve always been fascinated by the booking processes professional wrestling uses and wonder how much detail they go into when deciding who faces who and when – especially when it comes to long-term booking, which must be precarious as a plan that’s nine or twelve months in the making can easily be derailed by injury, suspension or the rise of a new star in the organisation. It’s with that in mind that I’ve been watching the builds of some of this year’s Wrestlemania matches and wanted to share my thoughts. See what you think and whether you agree. If you don’t, that’s fine. I’m always willing to listen to the other side of the argument.
Face vs Face (Charlotte vs Asuka, AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura)
This is my favorite type of match-up and also the most difficult, I think, to build for. One of professional wrestling’s main concepts, it’s most basic formulas is good vs evil. Simple, straight storytelling. We see it in books from when we were young, we see it in movies and on TV every day. One of the most fundamental aspects of writing non-fiction stories is that 99% of them will involve a protagonist against an antagonist. The face vs face matches don’t have that luxury, so how can they be built, seeing as the old tried and tested methods aren’t available to them?
It’s all about respect, sportsmanship and something to fight for – well, that’s how I see it anyway. The two title matches I’ve mentioned are two of the best challengers in their respective divisions who have earned the right to challenge the champion. That word; earned, is so important here. Not only does it give the story-line more gravitas in that the respective champion recognizes the achievements and struggle their opponent has put in to get this far, it also resonates with the crowd. The WWE Universe have watched both Asuka and Nakamura battle to challenge the top woman/man in their division. We’ve seen them both survive a Royal Rumble to earn the right to challenge for the title. These title shots weren’t ‘gimmies’. They weren’t handed to them, no, they were earned.
I strongly believe that particular background and build (a slow build, which is better) does give the face vs face matches a different dynamic. It also means that you can have a split crowd in attendance, with divisions between families and friends, each cheering for their own favorite. It is these two matches that I’m most excited about, and I have a real hope that Charlotte and Asuka could tear down the house and end the night with the highest star rating of the night – no disrespect to AJ & Shinsuke.
Face vs Heel (Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns, Alexa Bliss vs Nia Jax)
Here WWE have had a more simple build to these title matches, though not without a lot of effort. Alexa Bliss shouldn’t have been matched with Asuka, purely because Charlotte is the bigger name and that match is truly Wrestlemania-worthy. WWE kinda had to press fast forward on these feuds and with the limited time until the big show, all participants have played their roles well in building their respective matches. Alexa Bliss has been on top form, with some scathing promo work, Nia Jax has done well to come across as the abused and humiliated former friend, and their match should be pretty good. Roman Reigns has been at his best in recent weeks. His promos have been very good (not earth-shattering as some quarters have said) and he’s done his part well. He’s winning over some of the crowd (I think its stretch to believe he’ll be cheered by everyone in New Orleans, but he’s doing ok) and WWE are firmly behind him. Brock Lesnar, for his part has done little to hype the match. This is where I think WWE have dropped the ball. Even if they just had Paul Heyman speak for him in the last couple of weeks, it would’ve made a difference. Instead, WWE have tried to recycle the old Cena/Rock feud from a few years back and have struggled. I’m hopeful these feuds will kick into another gear in the next couple of weeks, and I strongly believe Reigns & Lesnar will put on a good match.
The Triple Threats (Miz vs Seth Rollins vs Fin Balor, Usos vs New Day vs Bludgeon Brothers)
I like each of these match-ups and I’m intrigued as to how they’ll play out. The Intercontinental Title will be fought over by three great athletes, each of whom would make credible champions. It’s a real tough one to call and WWE have played it well. Does it smack a little of trying to shoehorn in as many stars as they can? Perhaps, but considering this belt was put in a ladder match not so long ago, the triple threat makes it less of a gimmick and more of a challenge. Sure there are lots of dynamics in a triple threat that aren’t in play in a traditional one on one, but considering the talent on display, coupled with the recent build through the promos on Raw, I’m expecting a spectacular match.
The same can be said for the Smackdown Tag Titles in that each team would be credible and believable champions. The Bludgeon Brothers haven’t had as much air time or interaction as their respective opponents, but it’s about damn time Luke Harper was thrown back into the mix with titles once more. His pairing with Eric Rowan will hopefully give both men a push up the ladder that’s been lacking for too long. For the Usos, this just epitomizes how good they are and how much their character change has worked. They needed to be freshened up, which is something people have said about the New Day. While I’m inclined to agree with that sentiment, I can’t help but think their run isn’t over just yet. Big E has been phenomenal with his promos, and he’s surely a singles star in the making, but perhaps a split is too early right now, especially considering the high level of single stars on the blue brand.
I could go on about the build (or lack of) for other matches, but I’ll leave those thoughts for another day. Personally, I’m intrigued as to where the Braun Strowman vs The Bar feud will go, and I’m hopelessly optimistic Ronda Rousey will whoop Stephanie McMahon all over the place come mania, but something deep inside me is saying it won’t happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Steph/Triple H team actually won. Stranger things have happened. It’s not like WWE to have the big name lose to an established star at Wrestlemania, is it? Remember Sting vs Triple H…..